We’re at that point in the summer when the temperature starts climbing and dads start hallucinating that everybody loves grilling as much as they do. If you’re one of those dads (or at the mercy of one of those dads), you probably love a cold beer to go along with your brat or your burger. But I’m here to tell you that there are other options for peak-of-summer beverages: a dry rosé, for example, or a chilled Côtes-du-Rhône red. How about you level up your grill game with a hearty Malbec, my dude.
Truthfully, I’m not the wine expert giving you suggestions like that (although the editorial tone is all me). Those tips are coming from Tim Gaiser, an educator in all things wine, an adjunct professor for the Rudd Center for Professional Wine Studies and the only Master Sommelier in New Mexico. After living in wine country in California for many years, Gaiser moved back to his home state of New Mexico with his family in September of last year.
I recently chatted with Gaiser on the phone about how to shop for wine and what’s best for drinking in the summer. I didn’t really know what talking with a Master Sommelier would be like and was a little intimidated at first (I know next to nothing about wine, and can’t even fake it), but Gaiser is incredibly down-to-earth and approachable, so I was pretty quickly able to relax and learn some things from him.
“Context is the single most important factor in choosing a wine. How, when, why, who you’re enjoying the wine with, what you’re eating with it,” Gaiser says. It’s important to consider not only what you like but what the other people you’re drinking with might like the best. For that reason, Gaiser says, it’s best to drink uncomplicated wine if you’re sharing it with a large group. “[Go for] something unfussy and tasty with low acidity. Stay away from something that’s too big on alcohol, unless you’re cooking something that can stand up to it.”
Some general warm-weather wine tips: “Warmer summer temperatures and al fresco dining call for youthful, vibrant whites with tart acidity and little, if any oak. You should never hesitate to try a new rosé, too. They’re cheap and typically good. Also there’s nothing wrong with white zinfandel, and you should give yourself permission to try it.”
For those of us who want some more specific guidance in our summer wine selection, Gaiser was kind enough to provide a list of types of wine to look for at the store.
“Good choices for white wines would include:
Dry Riesling from Germany, Austria or Australia
Pinot Grigio from Alto Adige in Italy
Albariño from Rías Biaxas in Spain
Grüner Veltliner from Austria
Mâcon (Chardonnay) from France
“Dry rosés are my go to summer wines. There are any number of good sources:
Bandol, Côtes de Provence and Tavel from France
Garnacha Rosado from Navarra in Spain
Pinot Noir or Grenache Rosé from California or Washington
Grenache or Mourvèdre Rosé from Australia
The best way to shop for wine, Gaiser says, is to start with a wine you know that you like and ask somebody savvy at a wine store what’s similar. If you don’t have one particular wine in mind, just start with picking between red or white, and whether you like things on the drier or the sweeter side of the spectrum. If you visit a good wine shop—Jubilation, Quarters and Total Wine are all good options here—the employees there should be more than capable of steering you in the right direction.
What’s the best rule of thumb in choosing a wine? “Drink what you want to drink!” Gaiser says. There’s no need to consult a sommelier every time you want to buy a bottle. Don’t worry about what’s “right” or “wrong”—if it tastes good to you, then it is good.